The New England City Commission has decided to begin the process of eliminating wards in their community, making anyone eligible to run for City Commission.
At the New England City Commission meeting Monday, Mayor Marty Opdahl brought up the idea that the wards on the council should be removed from the town of New England based on wards such as Ward Three being too small and becoming too difficult to get a proper member for representation.
“Right now, we got about three wards in New England,” Opdahl said. “Because of the population in New England and the way the population is distributed ... we don’t have a lot of people living in Ward Three.”
Commissioners Tom Gorek and Chris Fetterer were both in agreement with the removal of the wards. Gorek recalled discussing this same matter four years prior.
“And it seems like we went through this whole thing four years ago, when I brought it up,” Gorek said. “And we voted it down.”
Fetterer added his own opinion about the situation.
“Marty, I’ve been saying this since I got on the council,” he said. “I think the wards are outdated, and I think they need to get rid o. ... It’s just that it’s getting tougher and tougher to find people to just run (for election) is the hard part … so, I mean, the first step is to eliminate the wards.”
On Wednesday, The Press was able to sit down with Opdahl and New England Auditor Jason Jung and discuss the movement of the wards. Jung mentioned that the process of eliminating the wards is legal to do; the city just needs a resolution to change it.
With the removal of the wards, the elections would be known as an “election at large.”
“Anybody who lived in New England, was resident of New England, would be eligible for any election, for any position,” Opdahl said. “We’ll still keep six council members.”
Opdahl added that until this point, only the mayor was chosen in an election at large. However, anyone would now be able to participate, even if a person from their ward is currently serving on the board.
The official decision will be made on Tuesday, March 17. If the move is passed, the new ways of election begin with the three seats that are up for election in 2020. With that, anyone that wants to run for Commission membership needs to be on the ballot by April 6. People who apply would need to obtain at least 15 at-large signatures from members of the town of New England to run for City Commission.